There are many good reasons to explore the music of Gary Moore.
Before his shocking, untimely death from an apparent heart attack in February 2011 at age 58, Moore held the conflicting distinctions of enjoying the deepest admiration from his peers, while remaining one of the world’s most publicly underrated guitar heroes.
But perhaps this contradiction is only fitting for an artist whose restless career trajectory – taking in blues, rock, heavy metal, jazz-fusion and other styles over four-and-a-half decades – was matched only by his prodigious talent with his instrument.
So don’t be surprised if our list of the Top 10 Gary Moore Songs serves both as a handy primer and a maddening tip-of-the-iceberg proposition, depending on your status as a Moore neophyte or longtime acolyte.
"Boogie My Way Back Home"Gary Moore Band
From 'Grinding Stone' (1973)
Gary Moore’s inauspicious solo debut album from 1973 failed to impress all that many people, but at least it was a start! After cutting his teeth as a sideman with several bands, the Belfast, Ireland-born guitar prodigy, still just 21 at the time of this recording, clearly wasn’t quite ready to rule his own Cream-inspired power trio. But Moore’s abundant promise was still sprinkled all over this set of muscular bluesy rockers, particularly "Boogie My Way Back Home," thanks to his soulful vocal performance and stinging lead runs.
"Still In Love With You"Thin Lizzy
From 'Night Life' (1974)
Following his debut’s commercial failure, Gary Moore briefly joined Thin Lizzy, reuniting with former Skid Row (no relation to the ‘80s hair rockers) bandmate Philip Lynott. The Irish twosome (Lynott hailed from Dublin, Moore from the North) enjoyed a tempestuous relationship, which fizzled for the first, but not last time, midway through Lizzy’s Night Life album sessions. Luckily, Gary had already contributed the iconic solo to this, Lizzy’s most famous ballad (his replacement, Brian Robertson, refused to try and improve upon it), which the sly Lynott was only too happy to claim authorship for.
From 'Electric Savage' (1977)
Moore’s career took on an almost itinerant quality throughout most of the 1970s, as he flirted with numerous different band associations and musical styles in his quest to become the electric guitar’s ultimate, versatile technician. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better showcase for his creative eclecticism and exacting technique than the dazzling "Desperado," which he recorded whilst a member of minor jazz-fusion supergroup, Colosseum II, in 1977. He really gives John McLaughlin a run for his money!
"Murder in the Skies"Gary Moore
From 'Victims Of The Future' (1983)
Fast-forward another few years and Moore appeared to have finally found his calling as a bona fide heavy metal guitar hero. And arguably no song better showcases the blinding virtuosity and sheer power of this phase of Moore’s career than the dramatic "Murder in the Skies," which set the story of a Soviet-downed Korean jetliner against massive staccato riffing, piercing melodies, and, of course, a stunningly executed dive-bombing solo.
"Wild Frontier"Gary Moore
From 'Wild Frontier' (1987)
No amount of peer-to-peer respect or commercial success could restrict Gary Moore to strangling his guitar’s neck in any one particular fashion for long, and so 1987’s Wild Frontier album found him delving into his Irish roots for inspiration. In retrospect, the album’s glossy, mid-‘80s production standards seem slightly at odds with this folk-music-steeped endeavor, but the anthemic title track still illustrates Gary’s heartfelt emotions toward his homeland in beautifully succinct and chart-friendly fashion.
"Oh Pretty Woman"Gary Moore
From 'Still Got the Blues' (1990)
Moore’s musical soul-searching progressed apace as the ‘80s gave way to the ‘90s – from hard rock, metal and traditional Irish music to authentic electrified blues, as displayed by 1991’s career-revitalizing Still Got the Blues album, which featured many of Moore's top songs in terms of popularity. Here, Gary paid earnest tribute to some of his biggest influences, including Albert King, whose stinging tone and searing leads drive the album’s international smash single, "Oh Pretty Woman."
"Need Your Love So Bad"Gary Moore
From 'Blues for Greeny' (1995)
Moore’s born again bluesman period arguably peaked on 1995’s Blues for Greeny – an album dedicated to covering classic tracks composed by Fleetwood Mac founder, Peter Green. With good reason: when Green became disillusioned and left the music business in the early ‘70s, he passed on his priceless ‘59 Gibson Les Paul to Gary Moore, who obviously made the best of it here, via the yearning ballad, "Need Your Love So Bad."
"Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend"Thin Lizzy
From 'Black Rose' (1979)
Lynott reentered Moore’s life in the late ‘70s, asking his old sparring partner to deputize for troubled Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson on tour. This time, their liaison endured long enough to produce a full album in 1979’s Black Rose – a perennial favorite of Lizzy fans. Besides boasting effortlessly blazing solos and patented twin guitar harmonies between Moore and Lizzy mainstay Scott Gorham, the album yielded one of Moore's top songs with this epic track, yet another tribute to Lynott and Moore’s shared Irish heritage.
"Out in the Fields"Gary Moore & Philip Lynott
From 'Run for Cover' (1985)
Gary Moore’s final album as a full-time hard rock guitar hero also contained his last musical partnership with an ailing Philip Lynott. Now destitute of his beloved Thin Lizzy, which had crumbled to a halt a few years earlier amid rampant drug abuse, Lynott was struggling to relaunch his career, and to simply stay alive, when Moore came to his aid. Run for Cover’s "Out in the Fields" (a Top 5 single in England and Ireland) tackled Ireland’s ongoing religious turmoil and captured one of Moore's most renowned and technically complex solos – a benchmark for shredders everywhere.
"Parisienne Walkways"Gary Moore & Philip Lynott
From 'Back on the Streets' (1979)
This gorgeous ballad from Moore’s second solo album, in our opinion the top Gary Moore song ever, can be experienced in two different versions, depending on the album or collection of origin: one features Gary on lead vocals; the other Philip Lynott – and frankly both are incredible in their own way. After all, it’s ultimately this song’s exquisite melody (a melody not even Moore could resist recycling for 1991’s Still Got the Blues [For You]) and the way Moore delivers it, with a sensitive touch worthy of Jeff Beck, that has arguably made it his definitive, gut-wrenching musical epitaph. By then, "Parisienne Walkways" had long since became a live staple.